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The group read is part of the Once Upon Challenge hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. This week’s reading covers the prologue through chapter six.  Next week we’ll cover chapters seven through fifteen. To join the group and read other discussions, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings.  

A thousand years of ash has fallen. A thousand years of oppression has befallen a people. A thousand years of rule by a “divine” ruler has gone unchallenged. That span of uninterrupted years is about to come grinding to a halt as Kelsier, bold thief and one of the Mistborn, gathers to himself a group of talented rogues and fellow allomancers to pull off his biggest job yet: the toppling of Lord Ruler’s reign.” Stainless Steel Droppings

1.  This first hundred or so pages was packed!  What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

I was pleasantly surprised by the author’s ability to pull me into the story in a span of several first pages – and no metals or magic involved! Sanderson strikes a good balance between dynamic dialogue and descriptions, moving the story forward at a good pace, although I stumbled a bit at the scenes that involved the use of allomancy (novel-specific magic). From the very beginning, I was intrigued by the epigraphs preceding each chapter. At first I was under the impression they belonged to one of the main characters, Kelsier, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, which makes it even more intriguing.

2. What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

The magic system is quite elaborate, and it took me some time to actually get the hang of it. It helps that there is a glossary available at the end of the book. I am burning tin to know who the Lord Ruler really is – at this point he appears to be some kind of anti-god; I also want to learn more about Steel Inquisitors and what kind of magic they are using.

3.  Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters.  As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

These two complement each other nicely and work well together, however, I am growing weary of Kelsier’s constant smiling and Vin’s constant frowning; besides in my opinion more varied facial expressions could add some depth to these two characters. I am yet to be convinced about Kelsier’s motives to overthrow the Lord Ruler. Don’t take me wrong, Kelsier has a great appeal as a character, but in my view he is far less interesting than Vin, whose internal conflict holds a promise of dazzling character development. At this point in the book, she is torn between her almost visceral fear of betrayal and her desire to belong, trust others and find her rightful place within Kelsier’s crew. Beneath her timid exterior, I sense a great curiosity, strong will and determination, which I am sure will play a much bigger role later in the book.

4. Finally, how would you assess Sanderson’s storytelling abilities to this point?

This is my first book by Brandon Sanderson, and I have nothing to compare it to. But so far I’ve enjoyed both the story and the characters. To me it seems like more of a plot-driven novel with a great entertainment value. I like how Sanderson builds the book’s fantasy world, doling out details bit by bit, and I am enjoying the flight of his imagination. In a nutshell, so far so good. If you like fantasy, you won’t be disappointed with this magical action thriller.

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First edition cover of The Country of the Blin...

First edition cover of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells is another tale from the “Bedtime Stories” book that I’ve been reading for the Once Upon a Time challenge. The challenge is a great excuse for me to read more fantasy. I also began reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Once upon a time there was a valley in the Andes that was cut off from the rest of the world by a powerful earthquake. Before the earthquake, however, the valley got inhabited by settlers fleeing the Spanish rule. It was a marvelous place abundant with everything a man needed to survive and prosper save for one grave flaw: all children born in the valley were afflicted with blindness. Gradually, generation after generation, people of the valley adapted to their condition and did it so perfectly that they lost the very concept of sight, while their other senses, such as touch and hearing, had become keener, more developed. They built a set of paths in the valley that served as guides, helping them orient themselves in the environment. Naturally, they developed their own model of the world in accordance with their perceptions and with no room for seeing.

And so they led their contented and peaceful existence in total isolation, until one day, through a falling accident, a man from the outer world stumbled into the valley. His name was Nunez, “an acute and enterprising man,” who was quick to recall that “in the country of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.” But his hosts, or captors, were of a different mind. “Four days passed and the fifth found the King of the Blind still incognito, as a clumsy and useless stranger among his subjects.” As a decisive man of vision, Nunez tried persuasion, so these people could grasp the full measure of their inferiority. However, because the concept of seeing was alien to them, they found his talk of the bigger world and particularly that of sight disturbing and wicked. When all the words failed, the resourceful and unyielding Nunez resorted to force. Yet, although blind, the people of the valley proved capable opponents, and Nunez’s attempt at coup d’état only put the self-proclaimed king in a position of servitude and inferiority. Resigned to his fate, Nunez began to learn the blind people’s way and tried to fit in. He even fell in love and was about to marry a woman. But that would come at a price – his ability to see and enjoy all the wonders that came with it.

Wells wrote two versions of the story: in the original version Nunez ran off into the mountains and died. The second version has a different ending, but I haven’t read it.

When reading the story, I marveled at Wells’s ability to bring to life the fictitious world of the blind through great detail and vivid imagery. It’s one of the stories that I can read and re-read and never get tired of it thanks to Wells’s exquisite use of language and his appealing style.

Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction.” Some of his early novels, called “scientific romances”, invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. — Information via Wikipedia

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Before I delve into the review proper, I have to tell you this. Don’t make a mistake I’d made when I picked up this book from a bookstore shelf, lured by a sticky note “staff’s pick.” Do your homework: Read the reviews. Or if you tend to read the reviews only after you’ve finished a book, like I do, heed my advice – GET KLEENEX. Under no circumstances read A Dog’s Purpose while enjoying a ride on public transit. Have pity on fellow commuters — don’t put them on the spot with outbursts of laughter followed by uncontrollable sobs. Don’t read this book before bedtime, because you’ll wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether you’ve got four legs or two and get all bent out of shape to discover you’ve only got TWO and NO TAIL TO WAG.

Don’t take me wrong. I am not saying you should not read the book.

You should read the book if you love dogs.
You should read the book if you have a dog.
You should read the book if you are thinking of having a dog.
You should read the book if you are thinking of never having a dog.
You should read the book if you are afraid of dogs.
You should read the book if you don’t have dogs, will never have a dog, and couldn’t care less if there were no dogs in the entire universe.

I am afraid you are not getting my subtle message.

GO READ THE BOOK! 🙂

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I should have called my post “If you want to cry, read Kelly Cutrone.” The book is about a tough life of a publicist/warrioress in New York, thriving in the field of fashion public relations.

While reading the book, I had to suppress the urge to erase it entirely from my Kobo. Not because it made me angry or frustrated (rather a bit itchy and scratchy), it just seemed so irrelevant and outlandish, it might have been written by an alien from a faraway galaxy. My curiosity, however, always gets the upper hand. So, I kept plugging along motivated by the thought that sometimes it behooves us to get a different perspective on things, even if it seems totally foreign.

A different perspective wasn’t the only thing I struggled with. The writing style and tone of the book are rough and uneven. It’s partly a memoir, partly ramblings about spirituality and a woman’s role in the society, partly a manual on how to get and keep a job in fashion PR industry, and, finally, partly specific requirements that you need to meet if you want to work for Kelly Cutrone. The tone of the book ranges from encouraging and supportive to patronizing and condescending. Therefore, I am dubious as to author’s genuine respect and appreciation for her audience. Obviously, I am not a part of the target segment, which I would define as “aspiring female publicists or fashion PR wannabes, young and ambitious.” Conversely, I am a 40-something woman, who moved to Canada from Russia 14 years back, on my own, husbandless at the time, with my nine-year old son in tow. Unlike Cutrone, I never used drugs and can’t boast to have had any addictions that I’ve successfully overcome, which would pave my path to spirituality. Speaking of which, I do not belong to any organized religion, but am a strong believer in the law of attraction and, though inconsistent, tend to gravitate to Buddhism. (This is just to give you my perspective on things, for objectivity’s sake.)

But this is not about me, after all. Based on the book (as a single source of info about the author in my neck of the woods) I do get that she is an exceptionally talented entrepreneur, a publicist extraordinaire, who has a lot of respect for herself and takes pride in her own accomplishments. I totally understand and sympathize, because I can’t even imagine how big my head would grow, if I had to go through all that personal drama and end up a top female alpha wolf in that cutthroat fashion jungle. It makes for a good story though, and I appreciate that. But no matter how extraordinary the author, it can’t make up for the book’s obvious flaws. And by the way, if you can’t stand seeing the “F word” in print repeatedly, consider yourself warned.

It’s my rule not to write about the books I didn’t like. This book, however, is an exception, although I can’t say I hated it or something. In spite of its flaws, the book can not be denied some  redeemable qualities, like authenticity and candor. I also share Cutrone’s idea of empowering women, and no matter how much I disagree with some of her other views, I totally support that following one’s heart with 100 per cent commitment eventually leads to success. I only hope that young women don’t make a conclusion, based on the book, that the only way to accomplish anything in this world is by being a “bitch” clad in black every day of the year. 🙂 Also, it’s only fair to add that I admire Cutrone’s courage, vision and focus and her seemingly infinite capacity to remain true to herself and speak her mind without fear of consequences.

If you’ve read the book and have an opinion, don’t be shy to share it. Did you love the book or did you hate it? I suspect there are a lot of people who love it, as well as those who totally hate it. That’s  publicity at its finest.

Related posts:

Thought Provoker: Kelly Cutrone – If You Have to Cry, Go Outside (instantaffection.blogspot.com)

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